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Behind the Book: My Extraordinary Face

last updated 14 May 2024

My Extraordinary Face, the new picture book written by Samir Mardini, MD, Marissa Suchyta MD, PhD, and illustrated by Bright artist Violet Tobacco, is hitting shelves today! Published by Mayo Clinic Press Kids, imprint of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, this book celebrates facial differences in children and enoucrages readers to honor their differences. Kirkus gave it a starred review, calling it,“practical and empowering.”

“Violet brought her incredible talent and sensitivity to My Extraordinary Face. The entire team at Mayo Press Kids including the authors, world-renowned facial surgeon Samir Mardini, MD, and Marissa Suchyta, MD, PhD were thrilled with her beautiful art for their special picture book.” - Bright agent Robbin Brosterman, who represented Violet on this project.

We sat down with Violet to talk about her artistic process, and how she visually brought this story to life.


Give us a quick synopsis of the story and the characters. How did you determine what the artistic style would be?

The story follows four children who bond and support one another throughout a single day as the narrator teaches children with facial differences how to cope with bullying and fully love themselves and their faces. The style I use for children’s literature focuses on stylization that is grounded in fun but simple colors, bright and big eyes, and texture with a gouache or colored pencil (digital) brush. It was important to me to showcase these children in a more playful and stylistic setting rather than something with more realism. When doing visual research for this book, I felt that there are already so many realism/photos online that don’t have the same playfulness as something more stylized.


What inspired the character design?

During the visual research for this book, I collected a plethora of inspiration of kids from all walks of life. Like any illustrator, you want a child to see your design and see themselves in it. I feel connected to these designs and hope children will care for and/or connect with them when they read this story.


What was your favorite part of working on My Extraordinary Face? Do you have a favorite spread in particular?

My favorite part was creating the moments when the characters first meet each other. There is a passing of the baton with a flower to show these children giving support. My favorite spread is when it comes full circle, and the flower is given to the original character who started the chain. I’m happy with the moments I created between the characters as they celebrate.


Do you personally resonate with the theme of the book? If so, what are some things you do to achieve that?

Absolutely. For anyone who has been teased or put down as a kid, it is tough to separate yourself from those mean words and actions. Teaching kids to create their space is so valuable, especially because many children might not realize they have that power.


Were there any roadblocks you faced while illustrating?

Thankfully, with the team I worked with at Mayo, I never got lost in the weeds of anything, and there was a lot of open communication about the characters and story. One boy, we named Gabriel, has Treacher Collins Syndrome; we reworked his design a few times so that the stylization did not get in the way of the accurate representation. I’m very grateful for the patience and input this team had on the development of the characters.


Is there anything specific you hope readers take away after reading My Extraordinary Face?

I hope the readers are reinforced with the knowledge that they have a voice and a choice in who they surround themselves with. And in light of that, we should not only accept our differences but also celebrate them.

I also did a nod to my city of Atlanta so I hope my local readers enjoy placing the landmarks. :)

Thanks so much to Violet for giving us an insider look at My Extraordinary Face, which is out now. Violet is represented by Emily Fernandez. To work with Violet, get in touch here.

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